Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn Take Heart in ‘Polarizing Effect’ of ‘Free Agents’

Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn NBC photo



Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn are staying positive about their “Free Agents” romantic black comedy despite getting off to a rough start with the critical drubbing the new NBC Wednesday night show has taken in some quarters. 

 “I tend not to want to look at too many reviews, but it seems they either love it or hate it.  The show has a polarizing effect.  I think that’s interesting,” Azaria says.  “It means we’re pressing buttons.” 

“Pilots are always such a strange bird,” adds Hahn.  In case you didn’t know, John Enborn of “Party Down” renown created the U.S. version of the series that originated in Britain.  Hahn feels the premiere segment that aired this week, “has given us such a real and true place to start, we now have the freedom where we can take a deep breath and jump into the comedy of it.   We can find the funny now that the truth is anchored.”

The show, in which they play a pair of lovelorn work buddies at a PR firm who have an ill-considered secret tryst, “is risky.  It is real, raw emotion, not cute, fakey emotion,” says Azaria.  He reminds that Britain’s Chris Niel wrote the original version from his own life experience.

 They’ve now shot four episodes beyond the pilot, including an episode in which Azaria’s Alex character recommends that Hahn’s Helen gets into therapy “with unexpected consequences,” says Azaria.  In another, his character “realizes he’s too nice” to fare well with women in the dating game.

Azaria can’t help but recall getting a similar split response when his Showtime “Huff” series debuted.  It went on to nab seven Emmy nominations its first season.  He observes, “I must be attracted to these kinds of things.”

MEANWHILE:  Hahn and Huff had reservations about the long hours entailed in launching a single-camera show — since they each have young children at home and want to preserve family time.  “It was a big concern for both of us, the main thing made us pause, because we loved the script and loved each other,” says the former “Crossing Jordan” actress, who has a son who turns five next month and a daughter who is two. 

“But so far, it’s been very liveable,” says Azaria, whose son is also two years old.  “Because we split the work, we each have one day off in a week.  And the set is very little kid-friendly.  We can have our kids come down and visit once or twice a week.  It’s still a bear.  I hope everything settles into a routine and it becomes a little easier.  Still, it’s so much fun to go to work.”